American Literature books summary
woman known as the town witch, and she tells him the next time he wants to
go into the forest she would go with him. When he arrives home, Mr.
Chillingworth comes into his room, and the Reverend refuses to take anymore
of his medicine. He sits at his desk and reworks the sermon he had planned
for the following celebration.
Chapter 21: A public holiday because of the election was planned and
everyone from that and the neighboring towns attended in their best
clothing. Hester and little Pearl attended but stayed slightly apart from
the crowd. Though everyone was packed close to see the parade, there was
an empty circle around Hester because of her scarlet letter. She had gone
previously to make plans with the captain of the ship that they were going
to take to England, and she saw the captain of that vessel talking to Roger
Chillingworth. The captain then came over to her and informed her that the
physician would be attending the voyage with them. She looked towards him,
and he smiled at her evilly.
Chapter 22: The parade began and Pearl saw the minister when he reached the
front. She asked if that was the same minister who kissed her in the
woods, and Hester told her to not talk about it in the marketplace.
Mistress Hibbins approached her and began talking to Hester about the
minister. Hester denied any involvement with him, and they began watching
as he preached to the people. Pearl left her mother and wandered around.
The captain of the ship told Pearl to give her mother a message for him.
She told him that her father was the Prince of Air. She threatened him and
ran to her mother. Hester’s mind wandered and thought about how she would
soon be free of he scarlet letter and the pain associated with it.
Chapter 23: The minister ended his incredible speech and it was one of the
best of his life. The people were inspired and as the parade turned
therefor, everyone would exit. The minister looked exceptionally sick and
called to Hester and Pearl to come to him. Roger Chillingworth ran towards
and tried to get Hester back from the minister. He is dying and with his
last breaths he shouts his sin to the audience around and blesses Hester
and Pearl. He tells the people to take another better look at Hester and
at himself so they see the truth in them. He ripped off the ministerial
band from his chest, and the people stood shocked. The people are struck
with awe and sympathy. The doctor came over the minister, awestruck
because he will lose him and his revenge. Dimmesdale asks Pearl for a kiss
and she finally places one on his lips. Hester kneels over him and asks
him if they will not see each other again, and spend eternity together.
The reverend tells her that their sin was too large, and that is all she
should be concerned. He shouted farewell to the audience and breathed his
Chapter 24: People swore after that day that when they saw the minister rip
off the band on his breast that a scarlet ‘A’ resided there. Many thought
that he made the revelation in the dying hour so everyone would know that
one who appeared so pure, was as much a sinner as the rest of them. Roger
Chillingworth died within the year and bequeathed large amounts of property
both in New England and in England to Pearl. This made Pearl the richest
heiress in the New World. Soon after his death, Hester Prynne and her
little Pearl disappeared. Years later Hester came back alone to live with
her sin in her cottage. Pearl was thought to be happily married elsewhere
and mindful of her mother. After her return, many people of the town went
to Hester for advice and help when they were in need. After many years she
died, and was placed next to the saintly minister. They shared a tombstone
and they would be together forever.
Hester Prynne: A beautiful puritan woman full of strong passions, Hester
Prynne is the main character in the story. Employed as the village
seamstress, she is strong and caring, helping anyone she can when he or she
are in need. With a penitent heart, Hester travels through the story
becoming only a shadow of her former passionate loving self. Other than
the scarlet letter, she was a very moral woman whose only joy in life was
her daughter Pearl. Roger Chillingsworth: The missing husband of Hester
Prynne. He shows up the day that Hester is put on public display and does
not show himself as her husband. A scholar and a man of medicine, his soul
purpose in his life becomes revenge against the man who helped his wife
sin. By the end of the story, he is shown to be an evil character.
Pearl: Looked on as the devil’s child, Pearl is the only one in the story
that is purely innocent. She is passionate, intelligent, and energetic.
Pearl is in touch with nature and with her mother’s feelings. Ever since
she was born, Pearl had a fascination with the scarlet letter that is a
constant reminder for Hester of her sin.
Arthur Dimmesdale: The minister of the town that the people adore, Arthur
was the secret lover of Hester Prynne. He was a sickly man who took his
sin very seriously. He spent the seven years since his indiscretion with
Mistress Prynne trying to repent. He wore down his body with his penitence
and his sin ate away his soul. In the end, he frees himself from his guilt
by admitting to everyone his sin.
The Rose Bush: A rose bush that grew outside the prison was a symbol of
survival, that there is life after the prison where Hester spent he
beginning of the story.
The Scarlet Letter ‘A’: The letter that Hester was forced to wear upon her
bosom, the scarlet letter was not only a symbol of her adulterous sin, but
of the women herself. The letter masks her beauty and passion as the story
goes until it is what she is known.
The Black Man in the Woods: the peoples symbol for the devil. The woods in
those times were a very scary place, and they thought that people that went
into it came out evil and corrupted.
The Scarlet Letter is a story that illustrates intricate pieces of the
Puritan lifestyle. Centered first on a sin committed by Hester Prynne and
her secret lover before the story ever begins, the novel details how sin
affects the lives of the people involved. For Hester, the sin forces her
into isolation from society and even from herself. Her qualities that
Hawthorne describes at the opening of the book, i.e. her beauty, womanly
qualities, and passion are, after a time, eclipsed by the ‘A’ she is forced
to wear. An example of this is her hair. Long hair is something in this
time period that is a symbol of a woman. At the beginning of the story,
Hawthorne tells of Hester’s long flowing hair. After she wears the scarlet
letter for a time, he paints a picture of her with her hair out of site
under a cap, and all the wanton womanliness gone from her.
Yet, even with her true eclipsed behind the letter, of the three main
characters affected, Hester has the easiest time because her sin is out in
the open. More than a tale of sin, the Scarlet Letter is also an intense
love story that shows itself in the forest scene between Hester and the
minister Arthur Dimmesdale. With plans to run away with each, Arthur and
Hester show that their love has surpassed distance and time away from each
other. This love also explains why Hester would not reveal the identity of
her fellow sinner when asked on the scaffolding. Roger Chillingworth is
the most affected by the sin, though he was not around when the sin took
place. Demented by his thoughts of revenge and hate, Hawthorne shows Mr.
Chillingworth to be a devil or as a man with an evil nature. He himself
commits one of the seven deadly sins with his wrath.
By the end of the tale that surpasses seven years, Hester is respected and
revered by the community as a doer of good works, and the minister is
worshipped for his service in the church. Only Mr. Chillingworth is looked
upon badly by the townspeople although no one knows why. Through it all,
Hawthorne illustrates that even sin can produce purity, and that purity
came in the form of the sprightly Pearl. Though she is isolated with her
mother, Pearl finds her company and joy in the nature that surrounds her.
She alone knows that her mother must keep the scarlet letter on her at all
times, and that to take it off is wrong.
Through the book the child is also constantly asking the minister to
confess his sin to the people of the town inherently knowing that it will
ease his pain. Hawthorne’s metaphor of the rose growing next to the prison
is a good metaphor for Pearl’s life that began in that very place. The
reader sees this connection when Pearl tells the minister that her mother
plucked her from the rose bush outside of the prison. Finally, for all the
characters, Hawthorne’s novel illustrates how one sin can escalate to
encompass one’s self so that the true humans behind the sin are lost. This
is what makes Hawthorne’s novel not only a story of love vs. hate, sin vs.
purity, good vs. evil, but all of these combined to make a strikingly
historical tragedy as well.
Top Ten Quotes
1) «It may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom that
may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of
human frailty and sorrow.» 2) « ‘People say,’ said another, ‘that the
Reverend Master Dimmesdale, her godly pastor, takes it very grievously to
his heart that such a scandal has come upon his congregation.’» 3) « ‘If
thou feelest to be for thy soul’s peace, and that they earthly punishment
will there by be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak
out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer.’» 4) «But she named
the infant ‘Pearl,’ as being of great price- purchased with all she had-
her mother’s only pleasure.» 5) «After putting her fingers in her mouth,
with many ungrateful refusals to answer Mr. Wilson’s question, the child
finally announced that she had not been made at all, but had been plucked
by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison door» 6) «
‘He hath done a wild thing ere now, this pious Mr. Dimmesdale, in the hot
passion of his heart!’» 7) «Such helpfulness was found in her- so much
power to do and power to sympathize- that many people refused to interpret
the scarlet ‘A’ by it’s original signification. They said that it meant
‘Able’; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a women’s strength.» 8) «‘That
old man!- the physician!- the one whom they call Roger Chillingworth!-he
was my husband!’» 9) «Pacify her, if thou lovest me!» 10) « ‘Hester
Prynne’ cried he, with a piercing earnestness ‘in the name of Him, so
terrible and so merciful, who gives me grace, at this last moment, to do
what- for my own heavy sin and miserable agony- I withheld myself from
doing seven years ago, come hither now, and twine thy strength about me!»
Chapter One. Summary:
The narrator assures us that the book we are about to read is true, more or
less. The parts dealing with World War II are most faithful to actual
events. Twenty-three years have passed since the end of the war, and for
much of that time the narrator has been trying to write about the bombing
of Dresden. He was never able to bring make the project work. When he
thinks about Dresden's place in his memory, he always recalls two things:
an obscene limerick about a man whose penis has let him down, and "My Name
is Yon Yonson," a song which has no ending.
Late some nights, the narrator gets drunk and begins to track down old
friends with the telephone. Some years ago he tracked down Bernard O'Hare,
an old war buddy of his, using Bell Atlantic phone operators. When he
tracked his old friend down, he asked if Bernard would help him remember
things about the war. Bernard seemed unenthusiastic. When the narrator
suggests the execution of Edgar Derby, an American who stole a teapot from
the ruins, as the climax of the novel, Bernard still seems unenthusiastic.
The best outline the narrator ever made for his Dresden book was on a roll
of toilet paper, using crayon. Colors represented different people, and the
lines crisscrossed when people met, and ended when they died. The outline
ended with the exchange of prisoners who had been liberated by Americans
After the war, the narrator went home, married, and had kids, all of whom
are grown now. He studied anthropology at the University of Chicago, and in
anthropology he learned that "there was absolutely no difference between
anybody," and that "nobody was ridiculous or bad or disgusting." He's
worked various jobs, and tried to keep up work on his Dresden novel all
He actually did go to see Bernard O'Hare just a few weeks after finding him
over the telephone. He brought his young daughters, who were sent upstairs
to play with O'Hare's kids. The men could not think of any particularly
good memories or stories, and the narrator noticed that Mary, Bernard's
wife (to whom Slaughterhouse Five is dedicated), seemed very angry about
something. Finally, she confronted him: the narrator and Bernard were just
babies when they fought. Mary was angry because if the narrator wrote a
book, he would make himself and Bernard tough men, glorifying war and
turning scared babies into heroes. The movie adaptation would then star
"Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving,
dirty old men" (14). Wars would look good, and we would be sure to have
more of them. The narrator promised that it won't be that kind of book, and
that he'd call it The Children's Crusade. He and Mary were friends starting
at that moment. That night, he and Bernard looked through Bernard's library
for information on the real Children's Crusade, a war slightly more sordid
than the other crusades. The scheme was cooked up by two monks who planned
to raise an army of European children and then sell them into slavery in
North Africa. Sleepless later that night, the narrator looked at a history
of Dresden published in 1908. The book described a Prussian siege of the
city in the eighteenth century.
In 1967, the narrator and O'Hare returned to Dresden. On the flight over,
the narrator got stuck in Boston due to delays. In a hotel in Boston, he
felt that someone had played with all the clocks. With every twitch of a
clock, it seemed that years passed. That night, he read a book by Roethke
and another book by Erika Ostrovsky. The Ostrovsky book, Cйline and His
Vision, is a story of a French soldier whose skull gets cracked during
World War I. He hears noises and suffers from insomnia forever afterward,
and at night he writes grotesque, macabre novels. Cйline sees death and the
passage of time as the same process.
The narrator also read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the
hotel room's Gideon Bible. He calls attention to the moment when Lot's wife
looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. He loves her for that act,
because it was such a human thing to do.
Now, he presents us with his war book. He will strive to look back no more.
This book, he says, is a failure. It was bound to be a failure because it
was written by a pillar of salt. He gives us the first line and the last,
and the central story of the novel is ready to begin.
Chapter Two. Summary:
"Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time." He wanders from moment to moment
in his life, experiencing chronologically disparate events right after one
another. He sees his birth and death and everything in between, all out of
order, with no pattern to predict what will come next. Or so he believes.
Billy was born in 1922 in Ilium, New York. Tall, thin, and embarrassingly
weak, he made an unlikely soldier. He was going to night school in
optometry when he got drafted to fight in World War II. His father died in
a hunting accident before Billy left for Europe. The Germans captured Billy
during the Battle of the Bulge. In 1945 he returned to the States, finished
optometry school, and married the daughter of the school's owner. During
the engagement, he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. After his
release, he finished school, married the girl, got his own practice with
help from his father-in-law, became quite rich, and had two kids. In 1968
he was the sole survivor of a plane crash. While he was in the hospital,
his wife died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He returned home for rest, but
without warning one day he went to New York and claimed on the radio that
he had been kidnapped by aliens called Trafalmadorians. Billy's daughter,
Barbara, retrieved him from New York. A month later, Billy wrote a letter
to Ilium's newspaper describing the aliens. The Trafalmadorians are shaped
like two-foot tall toilet plungers, suction cup down.
We now see Billy working on a second letter describing the Trafalmadorian
conception of time. All time happens simultaneously, so a man who dies is
actually still alive, since all moments exist at all times. Billy works on
his letter, oblivious to the increasingly frantic shouts of his daughter,
who has stopped by to check on him. The burden of caring for Billy has made
Barbara difficult and unforgiving.
We move to the first time Billy gets unstuck in time. Billy receives
minimal training as a chaplain's assistant before being shipped to Europe.
He arrives in September of 1944, right in the middle of the Battle of the
Bulge. He never meets his chaplain or gets a proper helmet or boots.
Although he survives the onslaught, he wanders behind German lines, tagging
along with two scouts and an anti-tank gunner named Roland Weary. Weary
repeatedly saves Billy's life, mostly by not allowing him to lie down in
the snow and die. Although the scouts are experienced, Weary is as new to
the war as Billy is; he just fancies himself as having more of a taste for
it. By firing the anti-tank gun incorrectly, his gun crew put scorch marks
into the ground. Because of those marks, the position of the gun crew was
revealed to a Tiger tank that fired back. Everyone but Weary was killed. He
is stupid, fat, cruel, and violent. Back in Pittsburgh he was friendless,
and constantly getting ditched. His father collects torture devices. He
carries a cruel trench knife, various pieces of equipment that have been
issued to him, and a pornographic photo of a woman with a horse. He plagues
Billy with macho, aggressive conversation. In his own mind, Weary narrates
the war stories he will one day tell. Although he is almost as clumsy and
slow as Billy, he imagines himself and the two scouts as fast friends. In
his head he dubs them and himself the Three Musketeers, and tells himself
the story of how the Three Musketeers saved the life of a dumb, incompetent
Straggling behind the others, Billy becomes unstuck in time. He goes back
to the red light of pre-birth and then forward again to a day in his
childhood with his father at the YMCA. His father tries to teach him how to
swim by the sink-or-swim method. Billy sinks, and someone has to rescue
him. He jumps forward to 1965, when he is a middle-aged man visiting his
mother in a nursing home. Then he jumps to 1958, and Billy is attending his
son's Little League banquet. Leap to 1961: Billy is at a party, totally
drunk and cheating on his wife for the first and only time. Then, he is
back in 1944, being shaken awake by Weary. Weary and Billy catch up to the
scouts. Dogs are barking in the distance, and the Germans are searching for
them. Billy is in bad shape: he looks like hell, can barely walk, and is
having vivid (but pleasant) hallucinations. Weary tries to be chummy with
his supposed buddies, the scouts, grouping himself with them as "the Three
Musketeers." The scouts coldly tell him that he and Billy are on their own.
Billy goes to 1957, when he gives a speech as the newly elected president
of the Lion's Club. Although he has a momentary bout of stage fright, his
speech is beautiful. He has taken a public speaking course.
He leaps back to 1944. Ditched again, Weary starts to beat Billy up,
furious that this weak college kid has cost him his membership in "the
Three Musketeers." He cruelly beats Billy, who is in such a state that he
can only laugh. Suddenly, Weary realizes that they are being watched by
five German soldiers and a police dog. They have been captured.
Chapter Three. Summary:
The troops who capture Billy and Weary are irregulars, newly enlisted men
using the equipment of newly dead soldiers. Their commander is a tough
German corporal, whose beautiful boots are a trophy from a battle long ago.
Once, while waxing the boots, he told a soldier that if you stared into
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